Before leaving this subject, let’s look at one additional passage of scripture. It’s a familiar one, but it’s strangely not often associated with fellowship. It’s more aligned with church organization or leadership and spiritual gifts. In I Corinthians 12:12-26 (NIV), Paul draws his famous analogy between the physical body and the body of Christ, the church.
The foot, hand, ear, eye, and all other parts have a purpose. They must work together. Each part needs the others. All parts should have concern for “each other.” If one part suffers, all parts suffer. If one part is honored, all parts rejoice with it. That sounds like fellowship to me.
But the remainder of I Corinthians 12 and the first eleven verses are interpreted by many to speak in large part of church organization or leadership and spiritual gifts. The church at Corinth had been plagued with divisions over leadership and gifts, so addressing those subjects makes sense. But to focus only on those subjects is to miss significant insight about fellowship. In fact, Paul’s discussion of organization and spiritual gifts seems to be for the benefit of the overall fellowship.
“There are different kinds of gifts…There are different kinds of service…There are different kinds of working…Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (I Corinthians 12:4-6) Again, that sounds like fellowship. If Paul had intended I Corinthians 12 to be mainly a discourse on organization and leadership, he surely would have mentioned elders and deacons, which he later instituted as church offices in I Timothy.
The other scriptures listed in parts 1 and 2 of the posts on fellowship are important, but I Corinthians 12 may be the most powerful. Comparing the physical body to the body of Christ brings home how essential fellowship is to the church’s life. We hurt for each other. We rejoice with each other. We also have gifts that we use to support and serve each other. No part of the body is more or less important than the other–also true for the gifts we have.
We’re all in this together, doing our best to love and serve “one another.” Fellowship also causes those outside the church to take notice, to desire a place in this fellowship, to find the Christ who binds our fellowship together.